Holliston Public Schools

Holliston, MA  01746


School Committee Meeting

September 1, 2011




Present:               Mrs. Galeaz, Mr. Gray, Mr. Jones (arrived at 7:29 p.m.), Mrs. Pennypacker (Vice Chair),

Mrs. Plunkett (Chair), Dr. Jackson, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ahern, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Buday, Business Manager.


Absent:                Mrs. Emmons, Mrs. Murphy


Call to Order


Mrs. Plunkett called the meeting to order at 7:01 p.m.




No minutes to approve.




School Committee Individual Comment


Mr. Gray welcomed everyone back and commented that he heard everyone had a good first day back.  He informed everyone that the Elementary PTSA is hosting a Back to School Picnic in the Placentino School cafeteria on September 9 at 6:30 p.m. and that the Harlem Wizards will be at the Miller School for a fundraiser on October 18 at 7:00 p.m. playing against school faculty & senior basketball players.


Mrs. Galeaz congratulated the Administration on a successful opening week.  She commented that school staff made it very easy on families.


Mrs. Pennypacker wished all the educational teams good luck.  She reminded the community that the District calendar is on the website as a resource for parents so they should view it and sign up for any events they find of interest.  She announced the HABA meeting on September 13 at 7:00 p.m.; the Adams School Open House taking place on September 8 at 6:30 p.m., and; the High School Open House on September 22.


Mrs. Plunkett also welcomed everyone back and thanked all the parent groups.  She commented that the Back to School Breakfast on August 29 for teachers was very successful.  She congratulated the teachers that were recognized for service and reminded everyone that the first School Committee office hours will be September 16 at @8:00 a.m. at Coffee Haven.  Both Mrs. Plunkett and Mrs. Pennypacker will be available.


Central Office Administrator’s Comment


Dr. Jackson thanked Mr. Buday and Fire Chief Cassidy for vigilantly watching over the District school facilities during Tropical Storm Irene.  Chief Cassidy was able to work with NStar to get the High School back up and running for Opening Day on August 29.


Dr. Ahern commented that the first days have been really fulfilling and that it was especially fun to see the Kindergartners take to their first days of school.  She feels that Mrs. Weene got the program off on the right foot and wished everyone a great school year.


Opportunity for the Public to Address the School Committee


Catherine Buckley of 143 Union Street, also the Science Curriculum Coordinator and a teacher at the Adams School, expressed concern that her daughter is in a fourth grade class with 25 other children; only ten of which are girls.  She explained that she heard that there is another fourth grade class with 28 students and asked if these large size class numbers will be addressed for this year and/or next year.  She further wondered if the gender disparity is dealt with as criteria or are class assignments generated randomly.





Dr. Jackson apologized for presenting a field trip request to the Committee so late and confirmed that he understands it is outside the Committee’s policy to review such a request at such a late date, but explained that he thought this particular request warranted the Committee’s review.  He then outlined a High School Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team trip.  The request comes after deposits had been made on the trip because there was a miscommunication between the Administration and the team coach.  The request is for a very typical event for teams in the High School athletic program and is scheduled for Labor Day Weekend (September 3-4).  Dr. Jackson recommended the Committee approve the request. 


Mrs. Pennypacker asked if there is a way of educating coaches about Committee policy so the process is followed properly.  Dr. Jackson assured the Committee that faculty and extracurricular staff are aware of procedures and this was just an anomaly. 


On a motion made by Mr. Gray, and seconded by Mrs. Pennypacker, the Committee unanimously voted to approve the Overnight Field Trip Request by the Holliston High School Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.


Favor:  5

Oppose: 0

Abstain: 0

Absent: 2


Mrs. Pennypacker took the opportunity to inform the community that there will be a Policy Subcommittee meeting on September 8 at 11:00 a.m. at which time scenarios such as this will be discussed.


Mr. Buday reported on class size outlining how numbers changed from original projections provided in mid-June to those completed as of the first day of school.


Dr. Jackson informed the Committee that the Administration is still monitoring the large size Kindergarten classes.  He confirmed that there is one teacher and one paraprofessional in the class with 24 students (one of the students requires Special Ed, but is only in the class part time).  He also clarified that there are no classes with 28 students in Kindergarten which was suggested earlier.  He stated that the Administration is expecting that the fourth grade class size issue will resolve itself as programs change for fifth graders based on the education choices available to that grade level.  Dr. Jackson further explained that the District is fortunate to have a number of adult resources so an additional Paraprofessional can be added to any large classes.  Although the numbers are unusually high, there have been no reports that it is unmanageable or that experiences are substandard at this point.  He concluded that in Kindergarten there is one non-Holliston student and in fourth grade there are no non-Holliston students.


Mr. Jones joined the meeting at 7:29 p.m. and inquired about the change in registration projections.  Dr. Jackson explained that there have been recent move-ins to the community coupled with an already high census in fourth grade.  Since it was anticipated to be a one-year-only variance, no position was added when this year’s budget was developed.


Mr. Buday confirmed that there are 236 fourth graders making it the biggest class in the school system.


Mr. Jones commented that he has always worried about the planning constraints put on the District by diversifying programs – he remarked that it creates issues when there are spikes in the census.  Dr. Jackson agreed that it is the cost of diversity. 


Mrs. Galeaz asked if students could move throughout programs and Dr. Jackson noted it is not in the policy to do so.


Opening Day


Dr. Jackson noted that it was challenging behind the scenes (with the fallout of Tropical Storm Irene) to keep Opening Day on track.  In some cases parents were asked to bring children to school because busses could not get to them.  He commented that these parents did an extraordinary job in getting kids to school on time and reported that there were 21 absences throughout the whole system or 99.5% attendance.  He believes the decision to open school was prudent and explained that it was done in conjunction with Public Safety Officials so all in all, it worked out well.  He explained that busses ran really well for the first morning, but there were some difficulties with afternoon busses being late to the Placentino School (in fact, there were no busses there when school let out).  However, all busses were out of Placentino by 3:25 p.m. on the second day so it made up for the day before.  At the time of the Meeting only one blockage remained in town and should be cleared when classes resume on Tuesday, September 6.


Another glitch to opening on time was the school system’s internet service specifically the hub serving all schools, HCAM, and the town offices.  Comcast equipment failed but after pressure from town officials and local legislators, Comcast agreed to hook up a generator that is still operating.


Dr. Jackson commented that he would categorize the work done the first week of school as resourceful and collaborative which lead to an extremely smooth opening for students and parents.  And, although it was somewhat chaotic from the inside looking out, he is very pleased with the opening overall.


Dr. Jackson introduced a Roadmap for Transforming Learning in Holliston for Committee comments.  The document was developed by the Administration to be used over the next few years in making decisions about curriculum, programs, staff, faculty, etc.  The idea was borne out of an event Dr. Jackson and Dr. Ahern attended of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents wherein the development of education mission statements was discussed with the goal being to summarize clear, obtainable objectives quickly.


Dr. Jackson described how the Administrative team spent a lot of time fine tuning the philosophy starting with three core beliefs about students – who they are, how they relate to the world and what they need to participate in the world.


The remainder of the Roadmap document outlines the work that the Administration and faculty will do over the next few years to prepare students for successful graduation and what support will be provided to teachers to achieve the ultimate goal of educating students at the highest level.


Dr. Jackson explained that the community needs to understand that teaching is very different today than it was even five years ago.  This Roadmap should serve as the guiding principal for the next few years.  Dr. Jackson confirmed that the Administration will review the document vis-à-vis the Strategic Plan already in place and bring any contradictions to the Committee.


Mrs. Pennypacker asked if there is a technology plan that will be reviewed in conjunction with the Roadmap so goals can be achieved.


Mrs. Galeaz remarked that the document was very direct and specific and that it seems to take into consideration comments from the community, showing that the Committee and the Administration really listened to suggestions and concerns.  She thanked the Administration for that.


Mr. Jones observed that the Roadmap actually turns the Strategic Plan into a question of, “now what?”.  He suggested that along with curiosity, empathy, techniques and technology there are expectations that need to be set.  He wondered, how do we make sure the expectation is set that the learning community (both teachers and students) are actually embodying the philosophy of the Roadmap?   He termed the ultimate goal as creating a “culture of excellence”.


Mrs. Plunkett expanded Mr. Jones’s comments to include communitywide expectations.


Dr. Jackson stated that the Roadmap defines excellence and its purpose is to establish a culture of excellence and define success.  He commented once it is in place it will then become a matter of assessing how it is being embodied. 


The Committee discussed that from students’ perspective, they play a passive role.  Should the Roadmap include the expectation of students in a pronounced way?


Mrs. Galeaz asked if identifying positive behavior might be the beginning of assessing how kids are doing.  Dr. Jackson answered that expectations can be built into mindsets by adding such characteristics as empathy creatively into curriculum (e.g. studying refugees and immigration policies from the emigrant’s perspective)


Dr. Jackson requested feedback on the Roadmap to use as a guide for internal planning.  The Committee agreed it’s a good idea.




Old Business




New Business

Fall Town Meeting Capital Request:  Initial Discussion (Town Meeting being held Monday, October 24).


Dr. Ahern outlined a couple of projects in the Computer Technology area:  Laptops for High School teachers and ipad carts.  She reiterated that we live in an increasingly mobile environment and since the High School is wireless ipad carts can be used for one-on-one computing.  She confirmed that they would not replace laptops and smart phones, but that they can be very useful for class content.  She indicated the request would be for two at the High School and two at the Adams School.  She suggested that eventually they would like to explore the idea of students being able to check out ipads to extend their learning day by preparing presentations, reviewing class content, etc.  The Administration is proposing laptops for teachers on Mac PLCs to offer them better collaboration.  In the meantime they would update labs by repurposing some equipment and updating rooms with smart projectors.


Mr. Buday described the problems with the gymnasium floor at Adams School.  It has buckled over the last year.  The adhesive used to hold the top floor to the subfloor contains asbestos which dramatically increases the containment and removal portion of the replacement cost.  Unfortunately, the floor is now unusable so ninth grade basketball teams, Holliston Youth Basketball and adult basketball leagues are all now without a place to hold games.


Mr. Buday outlined that the school bus amount in the budget request increased based on the addition of a wheelchair accessible vehicle.  There is an eleven-year-old bus that may need to be replaced.  If it is going to be replaced the Administration feels the replacement should be wheelchair accessible.


Mr. Buday summarized wireless access for the Adams School.  Based on the construction method and materials of the building it is difficult to get and keep a signal there.  More research will be done. 


Mrs. Pennypacker asked if there is no more need for monitors since the District is utilizing more of a lab model, not a pod-style .


Dr. Jackson clarified that the budget request advocates both a lab set up and a portable set up which won’t be sustainable.  One technology direction will need to be presented to Town Meeting.


The Committee discussed the laptop trend in the area:

Framingham – teacher laptops provided for 2011-2012 school year

Natick – two years ago laptops provided to high school students when new high school completed

Hopkinton – presented laptops to both teachers and high school students last year

Millis – gave eighth graders ipads for 2011-2012 school year


Mrs. Pennypacker suggested that the Committee needs to have their objectives articulated for Town Meeting. 


Mrs. Galeaz questioned if students will be encouraged to bring their own laptops to class.  Dr. Jackson stated that the Administration is not currently prepared to answer that, but will be able to once the challenges of bringing personal devices (compatibility, security, support) have been completely reviewed.


Mr. Jones suggested the District must employ minimum standards for any technology allowed to be brought in. 


Dr. Jackson indicated that the whole “initiative” starts with getting portable technology in teachers’ hands.


Mr. Gray commented that the lab style format may prohibit learning for some students, because teachers are limited to the amount of students that can attend.  Dr. Jackson commented further that the lab setup might actually stifle spontaneity so portable is probably the way to go.


 Mrs. Penyypacker inquired about how the High School Auditorium is holding up.  Mr. Buday verified that repairs would be very expensive and since the area is only affected when it rains, the project has been de-prioritized.  He further stated that no vendor can give a concrete idea of what is wrong. 


Dr. Ahern outlined Professional Development Day taking place on September 2.  A District-wide address will be given on anti-bullying and how adults in school environments play a role in stopping aggressive behavior.  The address will be followed by building-specific bullying prevention and intervention presentations/discussion groups.  The professional development portion of the day is also school specific and geared toward age groups and learning levels.  She stated that paraprofessionals participate in professional development as well.







School Bill Warrant:  On a motion made by Mr. Gray, seconded by Mrs. Pennypacker, the Committee unanimously voted to approve the $21,049.85 school bill warrant.


Favor: 5

Oppose: 0

Abstain: 0

Absent: 2


Next Meeting Date


The next School Committee meeting date will be September 15, 2011, agenda items will include:


  • MASC joint conference – Mr. Gray and Dr. Jackson scheduled to attend November 9-11
  • Capital Plan Discussion – Administration will make some requests / recommendations
  • Dr. Ahern will report on the September 2 Professional Development Day
  • Mrs. Pennypacker will report on updates from the September 8 Policy Subcommittee meeting


Adjournment of Open Session


Mrs. Plunkett announced that there would be a need for Executive Session to discuss non-union personnel – Superintendent; from which the Committee will not be returning to Open Session.


On a motion made by Mr. Gray and seconded by Mrs. Pennypacker, the Committee unanimously voted to adjourn to Executive Session at 8:41 p.m.


Roll Call vote:  Mrs. Emmons (absent), Mr. Gray, yes; Mr. Jones, yes; Mrs. Murphy (absent); Mrs. Pennypacker, yes; Mrs. Plunkett, yes; Mrs. Galeaz, yes.


Favor: 5

Oppose: 0

Abstain: 0

Absent: 2



Respectfully submitted,


Nancy Day